Watford - Everton Preview: Toffees hoping to regain form ahead of FA Cup semi-final

Roberto Martinez will be hoping his side can put an end to their poor run of form when they travel to Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon looking to end a run of three successive Premier League defeats.

Watford - Everton Preview: Toffees hoping to regain form ahead of FA Cup semi-final
Everton take on Watford at Vicarage Road at 15:00 (BST) on Saturday 9 April. (Image: VAVEL)

Everton will be looking to put an end to their poor run of form when they travel to Watford on Saturday afternoon after three successive Premier League defeats.

The Toffees are languishing in 12th place, but Roberto Martinez will see Watford, who are on an even worse run of four defeats, as a golden opportunity to gain momentum ahead of their season-defining FA Cup semi-final later this month.

Head-to-head

Everton and Watford met for the first time since 2007 on the opening day of the season, when nothing could separate the teams as the Toffees twice came from behind to earn a point. Prior to that result, Everton had won their last four meetings against the Hornets, with Watford's last victory against the Blues a 2-1 home win in March 1987.

Ross Barkley celebrates after scoring for Everton in the 2-2 draw when the two sides last met. | Photo: Getty Images
Ross Barkley celebrates after scoring for Everton in the 2-2 draw when the two sides last met. | Photo: Getty Images

Everton hoping to rediscover form ahead of semi-final

Roberto Martinez insisted that Everton are not prioritising the FA Cup over the league, but there is no doubt that the semi-final against either Manchester United or West Ham United later this month is the biggest game of Everton's season and arguably of Martinez's tenure at the club.

Last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United was greeted with loud boos from supporters at Old Trafford, leaving Everton 12th in the table and closer to the relegation zone than a top-four finish. The defeat was their third successive loss in the Premier League and the second consecutive game they have failed to score.

The Toffees need to rediscover their form ahead of the semi-final, but as Martinez highlighted in his pre-match press conference, the three confirmed semi-finalists (Everton, Watford and Crystal Palace) have all yet to win after booking their place at Wembley. Martinez will see the game at Vicarage Road as a golden opportunity to gain momentum ahead of their semi-final, especially considering Everton's strong away form and Watford's poor recent form.

Everton may have only managed to win nine of their 30 league games this season, but five of those victories and 24 of their 38 points this season have come away from Goodison Park. Their defeat at Old Trafford last weekend was only their second away defeat of the campaign and only Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City have lost as few games in the top-flight this season.

The opposition

Troy Deeney's goal against Stoke on 19 March is Watford's only goal in their last five league matches. | Photo: Getty Images
Troy Deeney's goal against Stoke on 19 March is Watford's only goal in their last five league matches. | Photo: Getty Images

Watford's objective when they returned to the Premier League from the Championship this season will have been to maintain their status in the top-flight, and they are close to doing so. A win against Everton on Saturday will see the Hornets reach the much talked about '40-point mark'.

However, Quique Sanchez Flores' side have struggled in recent weeks, recording one draw and four defeats in their last five top-flight games, which has put them 14th in the table, 10 points above the relegation zone and one point behind Everton. Only Crystal Palace's 2016 tally of three points is fewer than Watford's eight.

During their five-game barren run, Watford have only managed to find the back of the net once and that was in a 2-1 defeat to Stoke City last month. The four other results were a goalless draw with Bournemouth and defeats to Manchester United, Leicester City and Arsenal.

Team news

Gareth Barry is set to return to the Everton squad following his two-match suspension. The midfielder sat out the defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United after being sent-off in the FA Cup quarter-final victory against Chelsea, but he is back to help the Blues tackle Watford.

John Stones, who has faced criticism in recent weeks, is likely to keep his spot at the centre of defence with Phil Jagielka, while Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar are both doubts after missing the Toffees' last outing after picking up knocks.

Watford have no fresh injury concerns and midfielder Valon Behrami is available again after missing last week's defeat at Arsenal due to illness.